My mother would have turned 83 today, and instead of staring out at a cold, rainy day in Berlin, I most certainly would have been home with her in Manila, holding her hand as we laughed our way through the day. She loved flowers, food and sunsets, pretty much like me, and had a disdain for elegance and pretentiousness. She dished it out as she meant it, seldom mincing her words, and never afraid to speak her mind.
Linda was the first woman of substance in my life, and became my role model and best friend. Like me, she never spent much time in front of the mirror, and never longer than two minutes with a comb or brush. Make-up was minimal, discarding foundation on most days, but her little luxuries were lipstick and perfume. Simple, adventurous, truthful, rebellious, and so generous with her love and affection that most of my friends wished they could have been adopted into my family!
This is the first year ever that I don’t get to pamper her with food or flowers. Even when we lived apart I always made sure to send her something to cheer up the day. As she and Daddy grew older, she asked that I no longer send flowers, but food treats would be more welcome so they could share with their friends. So it was that I ended up sending the standard menu of noodles, fried chicken and spring rolls from their favorite restaurant where they started dating back in the 1960s. It is so ingrained in me to place this order at least twice a year, that last night I bolted up from my sleep and berated myself for forgetting to place the order. Then I remembered…
Whatever definition of friendship, love, motherhood, caring, generosity and support that I live by, I learned from her. During my rebellious teenage years she fought back just as hard, and we had terrific shouting matches. But this is the woman who also stood by me during my darkest moments, the same woman who was horrified to have given birth to a child with so many defects, and yet loved me unconditionally and supported everything I did. Throughout all my reconstructive surgeries (over 15 of them), Mommy was with me as I closed my eyes and succumbed to the anesthesia, and smiled at me when I emerged from the haziness. She walked beside me every time they wheeled me out to the operating room, and promised that all would be well. Whatever others set out to destroy within me, Mommy was always there to help put back the pieces or cheer me on.
Holding hands was essential to our relationship. As a child, she held my hand protectively, as I grew up, she held my hand as she unloaded the burdens of her heart, shared secrets and funny moments, and until her dying days last year, she refused to use a cane because she preferred to hold on to me.
I held her hand as her voice slipped away after her stroke, and she looked lovingly into my eyes as I told her I had published my first book, whispering “that’s what I waited for” and then fell silent.
I held her hand as life slipped away and felt her warmth vanish.
I held her ashes.